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Millennium Post

Laws not enough to stop rapes

Delhi along with the whole nation is witnessing an unprecedented agitation against the gangrape of a girl in a moving bus in the national capital. The response of the government to this agitation was far less than adequate. The government failed to gauge the level of resentment and adopted a bureaucratic approach to it as reflected in the reply given by Union Home Minister in Parliament. This was not a first instance of such heinous crime, but the HM was responding to the crime in a very casual manner. The reply must have been drafted by an officer, who was concerned with the single rape committed on 16 December only.

To prevent such rapes, the measures to be adopted were confined to the rape committed by bus drivers. For that, coloured glasses were to be removed and bus drivers had to paste the copy of his identification on the front screen of the bus and the bus owners were asked to take their buses under their own custody after the duty hours of drivers.

This casual approach of the government only infuriated the masses, because their resentment was not the result of a single rape, but it was the result of accumulated anger over the rapes and gangrapes reported for last many years. Rapes are not being committed only on moving buses or vehicles or by drivers. It is true that the immediate provocation for the agitation was the gang rape committed by a driver and his associates, but they were demanding harsh measures to give quick justice to the rapists, in general.

In this particular case, Delhi Police was able to arrest the culprits quickly, though it was a blind case and even the male victim of the incident did not know the identity of the perpetrators of the crime. People were not satisfied on their arrest, but they wanted their quick trial. Talks of fast track courts were doing the round, but there was no official confirmation about them. The government could have pacified the agitated masses by making official announcement of the constitution of fast track courts or political leadership of the government should have talked to the Supreme Court for such fast track courts.

Now with the official announcement of constitution of fast track courts to dispose all the rape cases of Delhi, the atmosphere has changed. The government has also announced the constitution of Justice J S Verma Committee to prepare a draft of a bill to deal with the rape incidents. Both are welcome measures and may be helpful in future to provide quick justice to the rape victims and to some extent it may reduce the incidents of such cases. But it is useless to hope that these legal measures are going to change the atmosphere of the country, which is responsible for instances of rapes and gang rapes.

If we want our women to be more safe and secure, we have to think beyond the laws relating to rape or molestation cases. Rape is not merely a legal issue, it is related to broader aspects consisting of our economic policies, which are promoting divide between haves and have-nots and also promoting such kind of consumerism, where women have turned to be “consumer goods”. In addition, if the male female ratio continues to go against the women, the situation will deteriorate further.

Some decades ago, incidents of gang rapes were mostly reported from the rural areas, where women of weaker sections used to be victims in most of the cases. Now, rapes have become mostly an urban or sub urban phenomenon. Lust may be one of the reasons for rape, but it is not always the sole reason. In rural India, it was usually committed to demoralise the weaker sections of society by the dominant castes. It was their way to dominate others and women were their victims. Case of gang rape of Phoolan Devi was the most discussed such case in post independent India, in which members of a dominant caste committed gang rape with her and she retaliated against them by their massacres later on.

As an urban phenomenon, the rape is the result of consumerism unleashed by new economic policies, by which the income disparities are increasing. In urban areas, destitute classes are living side by side with affluent classes. The deprived classes harbor class hatred against affluent people. Women become victim of this hatred, which is apparent in the Delhi rape case of 16 December. All the rapists were slum dwellers. They were residing in Sant Ravidas Slum Camp. By the name of their dwelling place, it seems they are dalits, but they are not dalits. They are from so called upper castes, but because of their deprivation they were residing in a camp named after a Shudra Saint Ravidas. One was a driver, another was conductor and yet another was helper of the driver. Fourth one was a fruit seller, fifth one was an electrician and the last one was a Gym Assistant, who also worked part time in a small hotel.

That is why, apart from legislative measures, the government has to take steps on other fronts too, to provide safety and security to women in our society. The sole aim of our government is economic growth and it has stopped caring distributive justice.

The growth has resulted into the urbanisation of India and now around one third of India has become urban, where income disparities have been very glaring. These disparities are releasing forces, which are bound to disturb our urban life. The falling female to male ratio is also a warning signal for us. This gender distortion will play havoc and indeed is playing havoc in our society. To check this distortion, the government should make efforts to empower women and educate parents that girls are not a burden on them. (IPA)
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